Saturday, October 20, 2007

What's it Like to Travel with Two Boys Under Three?

Now that I have settled in at home, and now that I can smile about some of the crazier adventures of the last two weeks, allow me to enlighten you on some of the funnier highlights of traveling across the country with my two little boys.

Our departure to Ohio was relatively unplanned and somewhat last minute. I had three hours from the moment I woke up until we had to leave the house to catch our plane, and I scrambled like a crazy woman for every minute of those three hours, packing myself, Tucker, and Tyler, and everything the three of us might need for this undetermined amount of time. No easy task.

It is far easier to throw in everything that remotely makes sense, rather than to take the time to be intentional, planning various outfits, snacks, and diapering needs. As a result, I ended up with a few unnecessary items... shoes without partners, socks that match nothing, capri pants that fall off my body. I may have slightly overpacked. Just slightly, though. Thankfully, we were blessed with an airport employee who showed grace for my overweight baggage, so I got to take nearly everything I own to Ohio.

During the trip there, my mom, the boys and I consisently arrived everywhere "right on time." We didn't miss our flights, and we didn't have to run to catch them, but we arrived at each gate just as they said, "Now boarding any passengers with children under the age of 5." That's us, for sure. No time to sit down, no time to change a diaper, no time to grab a snack. On the plane we go.

I gave Tucker an appropriate (and Doctor Approved, I'll have you know) dose of Benadryl at the start of each flight, just to bring on the sleepies. And I have thus learned something very important: Benadryl does not make Tucker sleepy. Thankfully, it did not have its adverse effect, launching him into hyperactivity. But it most assuredly did not make him sleepy.

He stayed busy with lots of activities: putting the window shade up and down, snacking himself nearly into a food-induced coma, listening to Grandma and Mommy singing Pat-a-Cake and Itsy Bitsy Spider more times than I can count (and surely far more than the surrounding passengers care to remember), and my personal favorite: practicing his favorite sounds at the top of his lungs. "Da. Da. Da. Da-da. Da. DA. DA. DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA!"

We had a layover in Chicago, but not long enough to do anything but trek from one end of the aiport to the other, with all of our items in tow: double stroller, Baby bjorn, diaper bag, infant carseat, a backpack, and the various items that no longer fit inside any of the above.

When it was time to board the plane, Tucker decided against it. Nope. Done, Mommy. I'd rather live in Chicago than get on another airplane.

I did not have time to give him a break, nor the patience, frankly. We had already maximized our off-plane time, and they were down to the final boarding call. They actually called our names; that means it's time.

Mom walked in front of me, leading the way down the tunnel and out onto the tarmac. She had the double stroller, the carseat, her backpack and my diaper bag. I had Tyler in the Baby Bjorn, Tucker by the hand, and our boarding passes in my other hand. It was all do-able...until Tucker sat down. I'm telling you, he was not getting up, let alone walking. "Tucker, stand up. Tucker, get up now, please. Tucker. Tucker."

I finally leaned down and scooped him up, only to have him slap me across the face.

Right then and there, I was faced with a parenting dilemma: do I stop right where I am, drop everything in my arms (including my youngest son), and justifiably punish this little boy for such an audacious offense? Or do I remember that we are about to board yet another plane, my fellow passengers are already not especially thrilled to see my tired children boarding alongside them, and a spanking (however deserved) at such a time as this would only exacerbate the entire situation and make this next flight longer than any of us could imagine?

I opted to show grace this time, to turn the other cheek, so to speak. (Please don't judge my parenting skills on this one situation. Simply add this to my list of Things I Swore I'd Never Do. Should he ever choose to slap me again, I assure you the results will be different.) But I picked him up, my own anger nearly boiling over, and squeezed him so tight against me that he could not question what he had narrowly escaped.

Remember, just for the sake of a mental picture, that I was still carrying Tyler in the front-carrier, and I had now added Tucker to my left hip. My mom had her hands equally full, but did any flight attendants offer to help us fold up the stroller or load our carry-ons? No. I choose not to speak poorly of this airline agency, but let's just say... they are United in one thing: poor customer service.

If I have misled you to believe it is fun to board a plane with two small children, let me tell you how much more nervewracking it is to board one that is already full of people.

"Excuse me. Pardon me. 'Scuse us. So sorry. Excuse me."

I finally was able to unload Tyler into the arms of my mom, once we were seated in our row. Tucker was still screaming his head off, which finally required a trip to the bathroom, for a "Come to Jesus" moment, from mother to son.

As we walked toward the back of the plane, a very kind, well-meaning gentleman said, "Oh, is he afraid?"

"Oh, no, he's not afraid, " I calmly responded. But I thought to myself, "I am about to give him a reason to be afraid." (Yet another thing I swore I'd never do. And look at that: I thought it. And I meant it.)

When we could finally settle into our seats, Grandma came to the rescue. She traded children with me, giving me the snuggly one, who was sleeping soundly and not complaining at all. She took the toddler to sit next to her, and he settled right in. Of course, I'm sure it helped that she had bought him fruit during our trek through the airport, and her carry-on had all the toys in it. But let's call it what it is: she's Grandma. He is an angel for Grandma, every day of the week. (I am not complaining, believe me. I am just thrilled she was along for the flight.)

Tucker settled in with my mom, I snuggled in with Tyler, and we all had a relatively peaceful flight. An hour later, we were in the Akron-Canton airport, greeted by family who couldn't wait to see us and graciously loan us their car. (Little did they know how long we would need it.)

Fast forward 14 days:
Time to come back to Denver.

Remember all that stuff I brought with me to Ohio? It all had to come back home with me. Only this time, we were not blessed with an airline attendant who felt particularly prone to overlooking heavy baggage. Tucker's bag was 5 pounds under, and my bag was 5 pounds over. She gave me the option: I could transfer 5 pounds of my stuff to his bag, or I could pay her $50 for the privilege of keeping those things where I had packed them.

And so, I suffered one of the great indignities of air travel: I splayed my open suitcase for all the world to see, and I sorted and transferred items from one bag to the other, while onlookers studied my many belongings. Finally, each bag weighed exactly 50 pounds, and we were allowed to move forward on our journey home.

We flew a different airline on our journey home, and I was just sure that was a step in the right direction. They boast a personal TV viewing option for each passenger, for the mere cost of $5.00 on the credit card: well worth every penny. I happily swiped my card, loaded Tucker up on his dose of the Baby Benadryl, and waited for that combination to work its magic.

No luck. This further confirmed my previously tested theory: Benadryl for sure does not make Tucker sleepy.

I sat next to the window, Tucker sat in the middle, and my mom sat in the aisle seat, with Tyler sound asleep in her arms (for which I was abundantly thankful). While Tyler slept soundly, Tucker squirmed and wiggled, he lay down, he sat up, he tried his very hardest to get comfy, but all to no avail. And bless his heart, he really tried. He and I both wanted nothing more than for him to settle right in and fall asleep while the Disney Channel entertained him. It just wasn't meant to be.

I have to admit: I really did well with most of the demands of the two weeks, but this last flight really pushed me to my limit. I was just doggone exhausted. When the airline attendant came to our row to offer us our "light snack," all she had left were pretzels and animal crackers. What I really wanted was just one blasted bag of potato skins... I mean, c'mon. Can't you start the snack cart at the back of the plane, just once?? I nearly burst into tears. And as much as Tucker tried to be still, he just couldn't stop squirming and kicking as he changed positions every 90 seconds or so. I tried all my best tricks: singing, playing with toys, letting him put the shade up and down, again.

I wasn't sure how much longer I could last.

And that's when I remembered what would give me a booster shot of endurance: my mom had packed a bag of chocolate. I'm telling you, I ripped into that bag, and I popped those chocolates as fast as I could open them. One right after the other, double-fisting. Bring on the chocolate. I pounded it.

It's not the first time in my life that I have eaten chocolate as fast and as furiously as I could, but it is indeed the very first time I have found it mood-altering. Many, many pieces later, I had a smile on my face, and peace had been restored in row 23 of the plane.

Just then, the flight attendant came by, offering another round of beverages. "Oh, yes, I would love some water. Thank you." Just as I had taken a sip to cleanse my palate, Tucker shifted again in his seat, kicking my water glass on top of us both.

Suddenly, I was soaked from my ribs to my knees, and Tucker was frantically signing "Diaper! Diaper!" The poor boy thought his diaper had suddenly sprung a leak, all over his shirt and the front of his pants. We were soaked. And we were not close to Denver.

But thanks to the great consumption of chocolate, I took a deep breath and smiled at my drippy little guy. What else could I do?

Doesn't this make you want to travel with us? I'll let you know when we book our next adventure, and we'll start the bidding for anyone who'd like to tag along. I assure you: it's a flight to remember.

Someday, I will again take a book on the plane (and not a preschooler's board book full of textures to touch... I mean a novel for my reading enjoyment), and I will settle in for three hours of blissful relaxation in the friendly skies.



Robin said...

Oh the good old days... when flying was a RELAXING experience! I hear you, sister. And I've missed you! Can't wait to catch up :o)

QueenSamiJ said...

Tricia! I laughed through the whole thing! It has been so much fun reading all your got me thinking about making my own...only about the life of a female in the land of EMS! So much fun! Love ya!